Goodbyes and Greetings

Journal entry from Lt. Gwenn Jade of the Harriers

I put Firiel in command of the operation to find Gale, luring him out with a supposed grain shipment he and his bandits might strike. We’d figured out that the completely non-violent bandits in the area were probably just feeding themselves. I put the estimate at about a hundred of them, if they’re not mounted, fewer if they are, given how much they’re raiding and how much they take.

The telling clue was that Lord David Numaire’s silos were never hit. Gale is, apparently, not the brightest.

Taking command, Firiel put Ordune to the task of raising grain and Tristram and Emilien to finding a cart and potential buyers. Since Ordune didn’t seem to want my help with the harvesting, I accompanied Firiel.

Later, she told me that her first mistake was rushing into the house. I would say her first mistake was taking me with her. Firiel works best without a gallumping warlord in her wake. We’re lucky the Emilien and Ordune can move with subtlety, but she was doing me, not her mission, a kindness in bringing me with her. She’d learned of a possible contact, Amelia, who might know something of the bandits. This was, absolutely, bad information, but that can’t be faulted. Firiel thought it was reliable.

Had she been alone, I imagine she would have been fine. She would have scouted the house. She might have broken in. She might have set a warning to “Amelia” when the woman returned to the house.

Instead, we approached in full day, knocked on the door, and asked after the woman. A gruff dwarf told us to sod off, that no such person lived there. Very well– we skulked about a bit until Firiel overheard them saying that they just wanted to “get him and get out of here.” We didn’t know who “he” might be, but we thought Amelia might be heading for a trap.

Oh, we are fools. Fools led by fools.

I offered to bust down the door, and Firiel reluctantly agreed. The fight was short and brutal, and I only remember a small portion of it, because I spent a good amount of time shaking the ringing out of my ears and, eventually, staring intently at the backs of my eyelids. Firiel tells me I’m lucky to be alive– she didn’t expect Amelia to return and stabilize me when she did. Apparently, Amelia planned to question me when I woke up.

We were put into a cell in the cellar with a gentleman who, as I dozed in and out of consciousness, I realized was none other than Lord Numaire himself. His reunion with Firiel wasn’t terribly warm– for all she speaks so highly of him, I guess they were not that close. I found him personable enough, though. He reminded me quite a bit of Felicia, and told Firiel that a couple of weeks ago, a supposed grain shipment from the Regency had been hit by the bandits… but that the shipment may have contained contraband magic items instead of food.

Firiel, for her part, made a good run at the door every half hour or so, but wasn’t having much luck. I stayed down. Honestly, it felt good not to have to make decisions or talk to anyone for a while. And I didn’t want to interrupt her reunion with Lord Numaire.

When we heard combat upstairs, I tried to hide my smile. It felt like we’d been down there for several hours. Eventually, we heard the cellar door break as one of Amelia’s men discovered it barred, and broke out. He returned shortly, reporting that someone had attacked the men upstairs.

It was at this point that Firiel summoned all her strength and broke the door down. She and Amelia faced off, but I tried to call her off– whatever was going on, I really didn’t want to lose a second fight. When Amelia revealed she was there from the church of Erathis, I tried to bluff Amelia into believing we were sent by the church Inquisition, but she would have none of it.

Of course, all the chit-chat stopped when Tristram, Ordune, and Emilien came through the cellar door! We moved out from the cell, Firiel fighting an invoker ally of Amelia’s, while Tris, Ordune, Emilien, and I focused on the others. I admit, I was shaky on my feet, but I helped my friends the best I could and skirted around to get my bow from where they’d stashed it.

Thank all the gods they were only interested in disarming us, not thieving our jewelry. I’m not sure which I’d miss more right now– my family’s ring, or Marco’s bracelet.

We defeated Amelia’s allies and took her prisoner, learning that she is no less than a bishop– Bishop Amelia Perren. When we questioned her, she defiantly ordered us to just kill her. Oh, I was sorely tempted to do exactly that. I don’t know even now why I didn’t, except…. we know they can’t all be Zacahary’s puppets, right?

I spared her, to talk, to try to instill some doubt in her about what her church leaders were doing. I showed her my diary pages, written immediately after we met Vecna, in hopes that their words might convince her.

“This doesn’t help your case, you know,” she said, but she sounded doubtful.

I didn’t care, as long as it made her ask questions, made her wonder what exactly her leaders were doing. Unfortunately, she picked up that we care about bandits in this area, and that the Fentons are “involved.” I hate that I implicated Felicia. Hopefully, I can get word to her network quickly so she can move to protect herself.

In the end, Amelia agreed to look into our accusations, and we agreed to tie her up in the cellar and leave her there. The invoker, she said, was one of Zachary’s, and we should kill him. Ordune was about to do it, but I stayed his hand until Amelia was in the cell. Mercy tempers Justice– until five minutes before, he had been her companion and ally. Even if one of them betrayed me, it would break my heart to see one of them murdered before my own eyes.

We left for the Numaire estate, and made arrangements for David to take Fermina and Dorian to Masir before he might go on a mercantile excursion in the southern lands. I said my goodbyes to Fermina and Dorian, but this time, I had no letter to send further south to Sava.

Mechanics Talk: Last week, Gwenn and Firiel did a bust-down-the-door confrontation with 3 halberd-wielding dudes and a dwarven defender and got our asses handed to us, though not before Firiel took 2 of them down. Gwenn was felled by threatening reach, a feature which I personally despise as a player. In 4th edition D&D, an adjacent opponent can make an attack of opportunity when you do something that provokes it, such as making a ranged attack or moving without shifting. With threatening reach, an enemy can make that attack from its reach position. The reason I hate this effect is that it locks down PC movement, and it’s an effect that PCs can never, ever get unless they play a very specific adventure and acquire a specific magic item, which they specifically are trained to use. In other words: never.

We went into a fight where we were overpowered because we literally had less than half our force with us. Had we had 1 more PC in the group, we might have succeeded. Had I rolled better, we might have escaped, but you should never rely on a warlord (especially Gwenn!) to hit. Had we called for a retreat or surrendered after the second round, when it was clear we were outmatched, Gwenn probably wouldn’t have dropped.

As a DM, I’ve used threatening reach specifically to lock down overly-mobile parties (like ours) and ones who rely too heavily on ranged attacks (like ours), to teach the players a lesson in being more tactically flexible. I cannot fault Steve for using threatening reach opponents in this fight. Sure, I don’t like it, but that doesn’t mean it was unfair (except in the sense that threatening reach in 4e is inherently unfair).

The second session was almost entirely role-play from Gwenn’s point of view, so I’m leaving out what Ordune, Emilien, Tristram, and Dorian did while Gwenn and Firiel stewed in the cellar. The guys effected a rescue mission by busting down the door and defeating the halberd-wielders there, questioning them (a bit brutally), then going upstairs to face off against a zealot and an invoker named Hendrick. The fight in the cellar (which had been locked by Ordune using a vine rope druid trick) was quickly handled, in part because we had all 5 Harriers together, and 4 of us focused fire on Amelia while Firiel took out the invoker more or less on her own.